Walker Embarasses Talk Radio

The withdrawal of Scott Walker from the race for governor helps Mark Green , hurts Jim Doyle and makes Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes look exceedingly silly.Walker is in many ways a creation of talk radio. As a state legislator, he was a frequent guest on the Sunday morning pundit shows of both Sykes and Belling, which greatly increased his local visibility. When he decided to run for county executive, he made the announcement on Sykes’ radio show, and his ensuing campaign got plenty of support from the two radio squawkers.Sykes’ relentless shilling amazed even Walker. “For three years, it…

The withdrawal of Scott Walker from the race for governor helps Mark Green , hurts Jim Doyle and makes Mark Belling and Charlie Sykes look exceedingly silly.

Walker is in many ways a creation of talk radio. As a state legislator, he was a frequent guest on the Sunday morning pundit shows of both Sykes and Belling, which greatly increased his local visibility. When he decided to run for county executive, he made the announcement on Sykes’ radio show, and his ensuing campaign got plenty of support from the two radio squawkers.

Sykes’ relentless shilling amazed even Walker. “For three years, it was a like a nonstop promotional thing,” Walker once noted.

Naturally, Walker’s candidacy for governor also got hurrahs from Sykes and Belling. You’d expect them to trash Doyle, but why were they lukewarm on Green and so entranced with Walker? Belling vociferously insisted that Walker was the shoo-in to win the governor’s race because the campaign would be about property tax reform, and Walker had the strongest stand on this.

Belling, of course, is frequently daffy as a prognosticator. He actually predicted that Sandy Folaron and Vince Bobot would best Tom Barrett in the last race for Milwaukee mayor. In fact, Folaron and Bobot finished as footnotes, each with just 3% of the vote.

Together, Belling and Sykes created a kind of no-reality zone, where their listeners and viewers could envision Walker taking the state by storm. In fact, Green had all of the GOP traction in the 71 counties outside of Milwaukee. Most Republican and Democratic insiders expected him to win the primary, and Doyle’s campaign was attacking Green relentlessly and paying scant attention to Walker. Belling actually suggested that Doyle was secretly scared of Walker and had targeted Green as some kind of elaborate ruse. That’s how removed from reality talk radio had gotten.

Apparently Belling and Sykes were so entranced by the politician they had created that they couldn’t bear to see anyone beat Walker. All three have lost credibility in the aftermath of his withdrawal.

For Walker, this leaves no chance of running for governor for at least four years and no other obvious race to enter other than re-election as county executive in 2008. But his decisions as executive have often been very short-term, probably because he never intended to stick around. Meanwhile, the long-term problems of Milwaukee County have relentlessly piled up.

Is Walker going to continue to blame everything bad at the county on Tom Ament ? At what point do voters begin to hold Walker responsible? He seemed to be counting on a quick escape from this question, but now that’s not possible.

As for Doyle, he was looking fondly at a primary where the two Republican candidates would both be courting their base and competing to be more conservative than the other. This would have given them just six weeks after the primary to move back to the middle against Doyle. Now Green can start immediately going after independent voters, without the distraction of a GOP opponent. Whatever Walker’s future fate, he has helped his party enormously.

The Journal Sentinel Embraces the Capital Times

Just how far will the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Managing Editor George Stanley stretch to slap Gov. Jim Doyle ? Stanley is the key person calling the shots on the front page, which last week showcased two stories raising questions about Silver Oak Solutions, an outside contractor hired by the Doyle administration to cut state government contracting costs.

The first story revealed that bureaucrats in state departments questioned whether Silver Oaks’ solutions were really saving money. The controversy merits some coverage, but, one might ask, don’t government departments always squawk about reductions in their budgets?

Two days later, the Journal Sentinel ran another front-page story suggesting that Silver Oaks was actually hired because of its campaign donations. The only problem was that the paper had no proof. Reporter Patrick Marley showed us that CGI-AMS, now the parent company of Silver Oaks Solutions, gave some $70,000 in donations split between the Democratic and Republican governors associations. So now any donations to governors count, whether or not they can be traced to Doyle? Moreover, Doyle’s folks hired Silver Oaks some 18 months before it was bought by CGI-AMS. So what is the relevance of some donations by a company with no connection to Silver Oaks?

In similar fashion, the story noted that two former “high-level” state officials went to work for CGI-AMS. But once again, this was long after the contract to Silver Oaks was awarded by the Doyle administration. It was also before Silver Oaks was purchased by CGI-AMS. So it’s doubly irrelevant.

The paper’s smear campaign went further, noting that CGI-AMS employees also donated $33,000 to Democratic federal candidates nationally and Democratic-leaning groups. So now any contributions to any Democrats or fellow travelers in the 50 states can be used to suggest that Doyle is somehow sneakily benefiting? This guy is really well-connected.

The only shred of possible evidence in the story was that “since 2001,” employees of CGI-AMS gave $1,100 to Doyle. First off, that’s chicken feed. Secondly, CGI-AMS didn’t own Silver Oaks when the latter was hired, so the donations are irrelevant yet again.

This is such sloppy reporting that you have to ask how it could be published. The final embarrassment for the Journal Sentinel was that it ended up as a strange bedfellow with the Madison Capital Times , that ever-declining bastion of liberalism. The Cap Times has also bashed Doyle for hiring Silver Oaks because an outside contractor could displace government employees. The Journal Sentinel, ironically, has joined in for anti-liberal reasons, because its managing editor wants to attack a Democratic governor. At least the Cap Times piece was labeled an editorial.

Selig and Company

Like many reporters, I have been on the receiving end of Bud Selig’s never-short lectures on the economics of baseball. He’s not exactly a wag at such times. So it’s quite a surprise to meet Bud Selig the witty raconteur, clowning around with Herb Kohl , Frank Gimbel and Steve Marcus in an interview in this month’s Milwaukee Magazine.

The four were fraternity brothers at the University of Wisconsin in the 1950s and are still friends today. Their bantering recollections suggest something very evocative about Milwaukee and the era in which they grew up. You sense how Gimbel and Marcus look up to Kohl and Selig, and you sense that Selig is something of a leader among the four, the catalyst for their conversations.

In the story’s photos, a laughing Selig seems almost transformed, and you can easily imagine the youth he once was. The four men grew up at a time when anti-Semitism made Jews somehow suspect, and they have long since become pillars of this community. That’s a sweet story of America’s progress and a poignant snapshot of how Milwaukee has changed. Send me a copy.

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